Consequences for Owners Whose Dogs Bite Someone
Generally speaking, dog bite laws in Georgia are more friendly to dog owners than to dog bite victims, especially when compared to dog bite laws in other states throughout the country. In Georgia, the specific language from the statute states:
“A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured.”
In other words, dog owners are protected in certain circumstances when their dogs bite another person. First, as the statute suggests, the dog must be considered “vicious” or “dangerous” in order for the owner to be held liable. How can an injury victim show that the dog was dangerous? There are several different ways, including proving:
- ● The dog was required to be on a leash according to city ordinance.
● The dog has previously bitten a person.
But in addition to proving that the dog was vicious or dangerous, the statute also makes clear that an injury victim must be able to show that the owner was careless by letting the dog “go at liberty.” Finally, the injury victim must be able to prove that he or she did not provoke the dog. As you can see, the burden is placed on the victim to prove liability for a dog bite injury.
In sum, the dog bite victim must be able to prove all of the following in order to be eligible for compensation in Georgia:
- 1. The dog is vicious or dangerous.
2. The owner was careless.
3. The injury victim did not provoke the dog.
If Owners Purposely Allow Their Dog to Bite a Person
In certain cases, an owner who allows or encourages his or her dog to bite someone else may be held liable for assault. There are numerous examples of cases throughout the country in which courts have held that dogs can be considered deadly weapons in assault and battery convictions. For instance, in one case just south of the Georgia border, Morris v. Florida, the court articulated that a dog can indeed be a deadly weapon.
Dog bite victims in Georgia may be able to make similar arguments under the state laws regarding assault and battery. In Georgia, simple assault is defined as a situation in which a person “attempts to commit a violent injury to the person of another” or “commits an act which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.” Simple battery is defined as a situation in which a person “intentionally causes substantial physical harm or visible bodily harm to another.”
If the Dog Was Being Attacked or Provoked
If your dog was being attacked, you may be able to show that your pet was being provoked. As such, proof that your dog was being attacked or was provoked can be a successful defense in a dog bite lawsuit.
Provocation could come in the form of your dog being under obvious attack, or it could mean taunting or teasing an animal. In some cases, your dog may also have been provoked if, for example, a person is intruding on your property, such as in the case of breaking and entering.
Financial Consequences for Dog Owners
- ● Medical bills
● Lost wages
● Physical therapy
● Reconstruction surgery
● Pain and suffering
● Loss of enjoyment of life
Certain damages are considered economic, meaning that they come with an objective, clear dollar figure (such as medical bills or lost wages). Non-economic damages, however, can vary significantly depending upon a jury’s perception of the incident that resulted in the dog bite injuries. Non-economic damages do not have an objective dollar figure, and these include damages such as pain and suffering.
Criminal Consequences for Dog Owners
Under Georgia’s assault and battery statutes, a person may be criminally responsible for assault and/or battery if he or she purposely allows or encourages the dog to attack another person. Depending upon the dog owner’s intent, the severity of the harm, and the nature of the victim, these charges can range from misdemeanor offenses to felony offenses. Some of these convictions carry required imprisonment.
In addition, a dog owner can be criminally liable for certain dog bite injuries even if the owner did not allow or encourage the dog to bite another person. Under Georgia law, a dog owner with previous convictions for dangerous dog violations can be charged with a felony offense, which comes with mandatory imprisonment and a fine of no more than $10,000.
Contact a Georgia Dog Bite Lawyer Now
Whether you own a dog and have concerns about the consequences of your dog biting another person or are someone who has recently suffered a dog bite injury, it is important to understand the legal repercussions of a serious animal attack. At Millar & Mixon, LLC, we understand the severity of dog bite cases, and we are dedicated to helping clients throughout the Atlanta area who are dealing with the consequences of an animal attack. An experienced Georgia dog bite lawyer at our firm can answer your questions today. Contact Millar & Mixon, LLC, to learn more about how we can help with your claim.